Album Review: Judas Priest - ‘Battle Cry’
Also available to watch on Blu-Ray!REVIEW
Veteran heavy metal giants Judas Priest took the stage at Germany’s Wacken Open Air festival in 2015 to prove to the world why they are and forever will be kings of heavy metal. Rob Halford still boasts his trademark, high-pitched howl, commanding the stage in his signature metal chains and leather apparel. Glenn Tipton rips his guitar to shreds with classical-influenced solos, while newcomer Richie Faulkner fills the big shoes of K.K. Downing confidently, adding a youthful presence to this now forty-seven-year-old band.
Judas Priest should need no introduction. Like their contemporaries Iron Maiden, Kiss, and Metallica, Priest made their mark in the ‘80s with their twin guitar harmonies, ass-kicking hard rock, and a dedication to their fans to make the heaviest, loudest sound they possibly could. While plenty of bands have either rehashed the same formula over and over or transformed into a completely different band, these British rockers are proving exactly why they have such a long-lasting legacy.
The band begins their live CD/DVD Battle Cry with “Dragonaut”, the first song from their 2014 album Redeemer of Souls. While 2008’s Nostradamus polarized fans with its emphasis on symphonic metal and high concept storytelling, Redeemer of Souls showed Priest going back to their roots and making the raw, metal sound that fans know and love. That is why the track flows so perfectly into British Steel’s enigmatic “Metal Gods”, a song that helped define the heavy metal genre in 1980.
They go forward a couple of years to 1982 with “Devil’s Child” before going back to ‘76 with “Victim of Changes” from the classic Sad Wings of Destiny. The energy is high throughout these performances, as Faulkner jumps around and wails on his Gibson Flying V. Whereas longtime Priest members Tipton and bassist Ian Hill play their instruments with precision and ease, Faulkner finesses the crowd with enthusiastic gestures and acrobatics. He looks to be having the time of his life, touring with such a legendary band.
Halford’s operatic voice still takes center stage, astonishing longtime fans with how well he has maintained his vocal cords. He even still rides a motorcycle onto the stage with leather chains and whips for the crowd-pleasing “Hell Bent for Leather”. Halford dons several outfits throughout the show, showcasing how Priest has also been a fashion icon for the metal community. The leather, chains, and S&M-style gear that Halford wore onstage became a staple of metal culture in the ‘80s and ‘90s.
Towards the end of the show, the view focuses on the teary-eyed face of a young fan caught on camera during the performance of “You’ve Got Another Thing Comin’”. As flashy and triumphant as Priest’s music is, much of it comes from a place of sincere sadness and frustration. Priest’s message has always been about overcoming challenges, learning to respect yourself, and flying your freak flag high. It’s no surprise fans still get emotional during their performances, even years past the peak of their career. The concert ends with “Painkiller”, easily one of the most sonically intense and brilliantly composed tracks in Priest’s discography. It represents everything that Priest stands for: using the power of music to kill the pain.
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